Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Jerusalem day four

The morning was slow because we had to pack and check out of the YMCA Three Arches Hotel. We did this by about 10.50am and then went to the kerb of King David Street and hailed a taxi who took us a short distance across town to King George Street, where the driver turned down Hillel Street and then into some back streets. There was no place to stop at the kerb outside the hotel, where we arrived at 11.15am, so the cab driver had to stop traffic to let us out.

The YMCA desk clerk had told me it would cost 30ILS to get to the Alon Hotel but the taxi driver charged me 60ILS. I asked the hotel clerk at the new hotel about this and he said that this kind of price is normal if there are suitcases involved in the trip. From the street the new hotel looked just like a shopfront. Its clerk, whose name was Anton, took my passport and made a scan of the front page then handed it back. I confirmed with him that the rooms had been paid for in advance and he came out from behind his desk and took us up three flights of stairs to the first floor. One of the rooms was still being cleaned when we arrived. By 11.45am I was installed in my room and had set up the wifi.

On the way out to get some lunch I asked Anton about laundry and he said that his hotel did not offer this kind of service; the rooms are in fact serviced apartments. He led me outside and pointed to a building and said that 100m down the street was a laundry. We headed in the direction he had indicated but could not find what he had promised so I looked up Jerusalem laundries on my mobile phone and saw a red marker on the same street but a bit further down the hill and on the other side of the carriageway. When I asked there the guy who came out of the shop told me they charge 70ILS for a basketful of dirty laundry and they wash, dry, and fold it for you. They open at 7am and close at 7pm.

Satisfied but hungry, we walked up the street to McDonald’s and used a touch screen terminal to order some food. We ordered a chicken tortilla as a regular meal with a diet Coke, and an Amsterdam burger as a large meal with a Coke. The food came to 103ILS and after paying with banknotes and coins I took the receipt (which was printed all in Hebrew except for the numbers) and we waited for the meal to be prepared. Some of the staff in the restaurant wore the hijab and all were women apart from the store manager. He came over to us when we had almost finished eating and asked in English if we had everything we needed. We asked for some more serviettes and he brought some over to our table. A series of pop tunes played on the sound system in the store including Marvin Gaye’s ‘Mercy Mercy Me’.

I had asked Anton about getting around by taxi and he told me that you can get them at a cab rank on King George Street so, after eating, we headed up the hill, turned right and then left into a plaza that terminated at the main street. We crossed it at the lights and stood at the kerb on the side heading south where I hailed a cab. It was a 20-year-old Skoda and it was clapped out and hot inside. The driver was quite overweight and spoke some English. He knew where to take us though and we headed off down the street before turning into a succession of smaller streets until we arrived at the Museum of Islamic Art. He charged me 25ILS and the door price (after going through the obligatory staffed metal detector) was 44ILS each.

On three floors in the museum there are a number of different rooms. Each one has a theme that helps you to understand the extent and nature of the subject and the exhibits are well labelled in English as well as Hebrew and Arabic. Strangely, there was also a room in the basement where hundreds of antique timepieces, mostly ones made in Europe, were on display. Paul Keating would love this room.

It was a very nicely curated museum and we didn’t leave until 2.40pm. When we did, we crossed the road to the northward-facing side and got a cab almost immediately. There was already a man sitting in the front passenger seat of the Skoda that stopped for us so the driver was doubling up on fares. He told me, “Thirty, ok?” and I agreed. We got in the back seat and arrived at the corner of Hillel Street and King George Street at 2.50pm. After I paid the set amount we got out of the car and I went into a shop selling soft drinks and snacks and bought three beers: two Maccabee lagers and one Leffe Brown. They cost 36ILS, which was less than what the YMCA restaurant had got me to pay for two bottles of Taybeh.

For 24ILS at a food shop that also sells pasta and salads my friend bought a cup of freshly-squeezed pomegranate juice, and she got an ice cream at another place for 10ILS. I went into a kitchenware shop named Kento and bought a bottle opener for 3ILS (which is less than a dollar in Australian money). We then headed back to the hotel to rest. I did some writing and then at about 4.30pm the wifi conked out. I went down to the front desk and the guy there, who was not Anton but another man, reset the router on the first floor. At about 5.05pm the internet started working again.

Later we went out to find some food and on Jaffa Street where the light rail runs we saw a man in a black suit with a black fedora on his head sitting at a table with some boxy objects on it. As we were talking with him, trying to understand what the boxes were for (they are called "filin"), a young man came up to the table and the man with the fedora told us this man wanted to pray. The man with the fedora took one of the boxes and undid a strap attached to it, so that the young man could put his arm through the loop thus made. The young man then proceeded to wind the leather strap around his arm.

He put on a taglit and turned away from the table, where we were still talking with the man wearing the fedora, who asked where we from and then said I looked Jewish. I told him that I was part Jewish and he asked if it was through my mother or my father. I said it was through my father and he made an expression with his mouth that I couldn’t read exactly. He proceeded to tell us about the Redemption, when it was prophesied that millions of people would come to Israel to become Jewish. It was already happening, he went on, but he lost interest after a while and gave us a URL to use to find out more, then a small business card-sized card with some religious edicts printed on it.

We meandered on through the busy shopping precinct and ended up at 6.30pm in a restaurant named Rimon Bistro where, while we were looking through the menu, ‘Hotel California’ was playing on the stereo. We ordered a ragu Bolognese and a plate of house goulash. Both were tasty but as usual with meals in Israel there was too much food. I had a beer and we also ordered a bottle of mineral water. The tab came to 167ILS and at 7.05pm we left the restaurant, wandered around the shops for a while, then returned to the hotel by around 8pm. I bought a Carlsberg and a Maccabee for 20ILS on the way back.

Once inside I had trouble with the wifi again so I set up a personal hotspot on my mobile phone, which is something I have never had to do before. It was surprisingly easy to do.

Above: The view from my hotel room in the Alon Hotel, looking northeast.

Above: A miniature painting showing the prophet Mohammed in a mosque. This painting is from India and was made in the mid-18th century. It shows the prophet in the company of his grandsons Hassan and Husayn.

Above: Swiss timepiece made around 1800 for the Turkish market.

Above: Faces are painted on these Iranian tiles made in Kubachi in the 17th century.

Above: Forehead ornaments from Bukhara in central Asia that date from the 19th century. They are made from gold and have pearls and precious stones set in them.

Above: Jade objects made for Moghul emperors.

Above: Street art near our hotel in a side street that is only for pedestrian access.

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